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A Double Thread: Growing Up English and Jewish in London Hardcover – March 6, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; Not Indicated edition (March 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566634245
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566634243
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #981,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

To be a Jewish child in England in the forties and fifties was to inhabit two vanishing worlds at once. Thus Gross's nostalgia for the Jewish East End—the Yiddish newspapers that his father read but he could not, the synagogue that, on a recent visit, he discovers is a Sikh temple—is interwoven with a nuanced evocation of England in the era of rationing and bomb shelters. As a schoolboy, he was equally obsessed with Jewish history and with stamp collecting, comics, and cricket. Gross, a former editor of the T.L.S., writes with diffident modesty. He experienced no conflict between his Jewish and English heritages, but little cohesion, either; it was like acting "simultaneous roles in two different plays."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Review

Wise, witty, and good-tempered. (E. S. Turner Times Literary Supplement)

Beautifully written and deeply moving. (Hilton Kramer)

Intelligent, humane, highly civilized...the voice we hear not only holds our attention but also wins our affection and respect. (Los Angeles Times)

A very beautiful and valuable book. (Oliver Sacks)

Incisive.... Mr. Gross's voice—demure, measured, if at times overly cautious—is strikingly unique and unusually trustworthy. (The Wall Street Journal)

Remarkably readable and entertaining. (Antonia Fraser)

Extraordinary riches are crammed into this short book. (Susan Hill)

Captivating and finely instructive. Written with grace and lucidity. (Robert Alter)

Subtle and deeply satisfying to read. (Michael Holroyd)

A wonderfully evocative account of growing up in London's Jewish East End. (Daniel Bell)

A delightful memoir of life to the age of 18 in London before, during, and after World War II. (The New York Times)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In at least one sense, the title is misleading: What Gross has accomplished in this volume is to weave an enormous, vividly colorful, and immensely intricate tapestry with almost infinite "threads" or themes. They include "the story of [his] two separate entwined legacies of being English and being Jewish" during 1935-52 as well as the Battle of Britain when he and his mother were relocated from London to Sussex to avoid the Blitz, the gradual awareness of the Holocaust, and eventually the establishment of the State of Israel.
For me, one of Gross's most powerful qualities is his modesty (almost self-deprecation) as his memoir proceeds through such volatile times. For example, on the matter of anti-Semitism, he observes that "to have had a religious upbringing at least assures that in your own mind you are a Jew first, and the object of other people's dislike second." Young Gross seems to have been spared the ordeal of what other Jews his age experienced during the Third Reich. With regard to his own faith, "for many Jews, whatever the larger historical balance sheet, anti-Semitism is the heart of the matter, the only significant reason why they still feel Jewish." I was also deeply moved by his portrayal of his father, Avraham ben Oser, who became a doctor. The adult Gross very closely resembles that wise and generous man. It is not so much that father and son tolerate anti-Semitism; rather, that they absorb it and thereby deprive it of any legitimacy.
Frequently as I read this book, I wondered what their conversations would have discussed had young Andras Grof emigrated to London rather than to New York and become friends with young Gross. (Grof changed his name to Grove and later served as CEO of Intel Corporation. I highly recommend his own memoir, Swimming Across.
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By Geoffrey Hazzan on March 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are some who say one cannot possibly be English (British perhaps) and Jewish. John Gross gives the lie to that. The fact is that both cultures provide rich pickings.
Strongly influenced by his father, a doctor who continued to practise in the East End when others quickly sought out greener pastures, Gross's memoir of his formative years has both balance and originality. He is wholly comfortable in using Yiddish words when his peers would chose to eschew this 'strange' language lest it mark them out as being different from the herd.
For all that, the author won a scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford, and went on to become a distinguished literary critic. The paragraph on retracing roots in Hackney with Harold Pinter and Antonia Fraser was touching whilst there are a sprinkling of amusing anecdotes.
The book is a snapshot in time which will be read with even greater interest as the years roll by.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Judith C. Kinney on January 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book, especially the last chapter, in which Gross tells about his reading. Like Gross, I love books about books. Like Gross, I read a lot of comic books in my youth (mainly Wonder Woman) and, later, mysteries (all of Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie and many more). Like Gross, I thought there would always be time later to read the classics, and also like him, I tend to pick up whatever catches my eye at the library. Now I'm 63, and although I've read much of the great stuff, there's still much to be read. My tastes don't run to T. S. Eliot and Gross's moderns but backward to the nineteenth-century English novelists and beyond.
Gross has a pleasant, low-key style and, it seemed to me, a realistic take on childhood and its memories.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Received as advertised _ on time.
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